At least on one important topic in Washington, bipartisan cooperation is very active: China.
Most Democrats and their Republican counterparts who have influence on American foreign policy agree that China is now the biggest national security threat facing the United States. They believe that the possibility of conflict between the two countries is increasing, and Taiwan may be the catalyst. President Biden met with President Xi Jinping at the virtual summit Last week, but after that, A senior U.S. official said Taiwan has not reached “new things in the form of guardrails or any other understanding.”
Comparing the China policies of Donald Trump and Joe Biden, you will find that there are more similarities than differences. Four months after Biden took office, Kurt M. Campbell, Coordinator of Indo-Pacific Affairs of the National Security Council, said, Announce This contact, the approach that US leaders have adopted towards China since the 1970s, has failed, and “the main paradigm will be competition.”An acclaimed Book Campbell’s senior deputy Rasch Dorsey warned that China’s goal is nothing more than to replace the United States as the world’s largest power.
Neither official explained what the future US-China “competition” will look like and how to prevent it from becoming violent.
Both parties will incur Huge loss If their competition intensifies without being affected by any common interests and leads to war, then they will lose their blood and wealth. The same is true in other parts of the world.
Sino-U.S. trade volume $615 billion In 2020, the two-way foreign direct investment of 162 billion US dollars, $124 billion From the American side.The shock wave generated by the Sino-US collision will quickly sweep the global economy, because it is estimated that 3.4 trillion USD Annual trade volume through the South China Sea Fifth and third Global seaborne trade, including Account for 30% of all crude oil trade, And China and the United States have ways to launch cyber attacks on each other’s financial systems.
The military consequences will be catastrophic.As the Ministry of Defense Newest The annual report on China’s armed forces submitted to Congress shows that in the past few decades, China has acquired a series of advanced fighter jets, warships, submarines, cruise and ballistic missiles, and cyber warfare systems, which together serve one purpose. : To prevent the United States from projecting its military power to the South China Sea and East China Sea, which extends from Japan and South Korea to Vietnam and includes Taiwan, despite having aircraft carrier battle groups and bases in the region. First island chain.
Even if the U.S. forces broke this fortress, Potential loss -In a few hours-it may surpass all wars that the United States has participated in since the Vietnam War. China will also suffer tremendous damage, but it has the advantage of being close, while the United States will have to fight thousands of miles away. Of course, if the war escalates and nuclear weapons are used, things will get worse.
This brings us back to the bipartisan consensus.
There is an atmosphere of untruth in popular statements about the increasingly fierce competition between China and the United States. They describe the strengths and goals of each country in abstract terms: asymmetric, reliable alliances, “anti-access/area denial” strategies. One might wonder whether it is Go or Chess that is being discussed, which is forgivable.Strangely, there is no inherent human cost of war in these preservatives. analyze.
At the same time, the war of words between the two sides continued, and the display of force continued.
China has sent military aircraft many times pass through Taiwan’s “Air Defense Identification Zone” (sometimes confused with its airspace in reportage, let alone Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone Overlaps with China and even covers a part of mainland China).Taiwan government Announce U.S. military advisers are training the Taiwanese army.
Beijing’s insistence on reunification with Taiwan is the country’s top priority.U.S. commander calls Capital increase Strengthen the U.S. military in the Pacific. President Biden said The United States will defend Taiwan, even in 1979 Taiwan Relations Act Does not include such certain obligations.Nationalist Chinese media assertion The United States will be defeated in the Taiwan War.
In this posture and military muscle flexion, events that neither side want to happen and where they really do not want to be: how long before the battlefield? If both China and the United States continue to have the worst expectations of each other due to a lack of trust, and both sides are demonstrating determination tit-for-tat without adequate diplomatic means, then China and the United States will face this risk.
It is understandable that the people of Taiwan do not want to be annexed by China. They want to maintain a prosperous economy and democracy. American policymakers support their wishes in principle. Nevertheless, because international politics involves competition between armed countries, wars are always lurking behind, and the consequences of defending principles cannot be separated from the risks of the real world.
If their elected representatives take the time to explain exactly what it means to be blood and treasure, instead of engaging in hard-line talks, are the American people really willing to risk a war with China on Taiwan? Are Chinese leaders really ready to attack Taiwan, betting that the United States will eventually lose courage — or lose?
Although Biden understands that a true face-to-face summit is not a panacea, he has always A believer The value of direct meetings between leaders. His virtual dialogue with Xi Jinping was the beginning, but now is the time for the leaders of the United States and China to meet in person—a few days later—to prevent military exercises and verbal battles from turning into war.
Each party may think it will prevail. But what will victory look like, and is it worth the price?
Rajan Menon is a professor of international relations at the City College of New York and a researcher at the Quincy Institute and the Salzman Institute for War and Peace at Columbia University.